Jordan Zimmermann has pitched five innings tonight. He's already set a career high for strikeouts in a game, and he hit that mark with an out to spare in the fifth inning.
Zimmermann has struck out 10 batters in five innings, and the Nationals lead the Braves 5-1. The right-hander has only thrown 76 pitches so far, and while only 49 of them have been strikes, he's got the kind of commanding stuff the Nationals have been waiting to see on a more consistent basis.
Everything is working for the 24-year-old: he's spotting his mid-90s fastball well, and getting backdoor strikes with his slider. He looks like he's in that mode where he can throw anything he want; he's getting swings and misses on his breaking ball because his fastball has been so good, and he hasn't been afraid to elevate his fastball.
I've occasionally been tough on Zimmermann because of how often he's flashed his great stuff, only to slip backwards in his next start. But if he gets through the sixth and allows two runs or less in the inning, he'll have his third straight quality start, and it'll be the third outing in a row he's either set or matched a season-high for strikeouts in a game. The Nationals have plenty of pitchers who can be good occasionally; top-end starters are able to flash shutdown stuff more often than not. Zimmermann looks like he's moving in the right direction.
The Nationals added another run in the fifth on a rare Ivan Rodriguez homer. The catcher hit his second of the year, and he pulled it to left. It's rare for Rodriguez to pull a ball these days, and it's just another sign that everything is working for the Nationals right now.